An exciting addition to a home freshwater aquarium could be a shark. However, the sharks found in aquariums are different from those found in the ocean, as the latter can grow quite large and dangerous. Common types of freshwater shark fish include cyprinids and catfish.
These fish are active bottom-to-midwater dwellers that are also simple to care for. They are a thrilling addition to any freshwater tank because they resemble sharks found in the ocean.
In this article, you’ll see 10 unique species of freshwater shark, each suitable for a home aquarium, and learn more about their traits. OK, let’s get started.
What Are Freshwater Sharks?
Having a large, pointed head and a dorsal fin, freshwater sharks are a type of fish that look similar to their saltwater counterparts. However, they share no ancestry with the sharks found in the ocean. Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam are home to many freshwater sharks, which can be found in the country’s rivers and lakes. A small number of these species might even be found in Australia.
Most of the time, these fish will be shades of gray, black, or even purple. They usually come in a single hue rather than a pattern of shades. Freshwater sharks often have a metallic sheen to their scales. A shark’s fins are typically a lighter color than the rest of its body, with a black or dark-colored border.
10 Best Freshwater Sharks (For Those Short On Time)
If you don’t have much time, then here are the best freshwater sharks you can choose for your aquarium!
The large and unique Bala Shark is a freshwater fish many aquarium keepers have considered. The Bala Shark, a species native to Southeast Asia, has earned the nickname “The Gentle Giant” for its large size and calm demeanor.
It is believed that Bala Sharks are now extinct or critically endangered in many of their historic freshwater ranges, so much so that conservation efforts have been launched to save the species
Bala Sharks are omnivores in their natural environment, feeding on things such as insects, larvae, algae, plant parts, and even small crustaceans. However, when kept in an aquarium as well as the former, you should also feed them live and dried flake food.
These fish are known for their friendliness and can coexist peacefully with other aquarium inhabitants. Great tank mates for Bala Sharks include Rainbowfish, Rasboras, Gourami’s, and Tetras.
However, Bala Sharks may prey on smaller fish as it matures, so keeping plenty of space in the tank for all the fish is essential. Before adding a new smaller fish to the tank, it’s always a good idea to check and see if it’s compatible with the current inhabitants.
|Tank Size||125 Gallons|
Red Tail Shark
Red Tail Sharks or Red Tail Shark minnows are endemic to Thailand where they are found in lowland waterways with rocky or sandy bottoms. The red-tail shark’s name refers to the color of its tail, which makes it stand out among other sharks. However, under duress, illness, or poor water quality, they may lose their tail color.
Red-tail shark’s have a varied diet in the wild, primarily plants, insects, and sometimes even smaller fish. When raised in captivity, however, red-tail sharks should be given a diet that includes algae, plants, protein, and vegetables. The easiest way to do this is through feeding them bottom dweller pellets and then supplementing their diet with live and frozen food.
When it comes to keeping tank mates it’s best to keep a red-tail shark with fish of a similar size, as they may try to bully smaller fish in the tank if they get the chance. And most importantly, avoid bottom dwellers.
|Name||Red Tail Black Shark|
|Tank Size||55 Gallons|
The rainbow shark like other sharks on this list is not a true shark at all. Instead, they are called sharks because of the way their dorsal fin stands out from the rest of their body. Rainbow sharks, in contrast to true sharks, are members of the Cyprinidae family, which includes fish like minnows and guppies.
The red coloring of rainbow sharks’ fins is the primary reason for the species’ nickname. Their fins can sometimes take on an orange tint in addition to being red. Their long, slender bodies can be gray or black, making the vivid colors of their fins stand out even more. Dark blue bodies are rare in rainbow sharks, but they exist.
Rainbow sharks are omnivores in their natural habitat, eating various foods, including algae, larvae, and small amounts of insects and sometimes even fish. In your tank they’ll often eat algae from the substrate, however, you should supplement their diet with catfish tablets, flakes, or wafers containing algae.
As Rainbow Sharks are very territorial, it is essential to carefully consider who you put in their tank. They like to hang out at the tank’s bottom, and they may try to protect their territory by driving away any other fish that venture too close to their chosen spot. So try to choose middle or top dwellers.
|Tank Size||55 Gallons|
Albino Rainbow Shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum)
If you want to keep albino rainbow sharks as pets, it’s important to provide them with enough space to swim around and be active. A shallow, rectangular tank with a canister filter should be used to replicate their natural environment of fast-moving rivers.
And to ensure their comfort, don’t forget to add fine gravel substrate, driftwood, caves, and plants to their tank.
Albino rainbow sharks need a balanced diet to stay healthy. In their natural habitat, they mostly eat decomposing plant matter, insect larvae, and zooplankton. However, you can feed them almost anything, including pellets, live food, tropical fish flakes, frozen meaty foods, blanched fresh veggies, and tank algae.
Although Albino Rainbow Sharks are peaceful, they may eat small invertebrates like dwarf shrimp in a community tank. However, it can coexist with larger snails and shrimp, from Amano Shrimp to Green lace Shrimp and Vampire Shrimp.
|Name||Albino Rainbow Shark|
|Tank Size||55 Gallons|
Iridescent sharks have a unique and captivating appearance. Their distinctive dorsal fin is one distinguishing feature. It’s like a sail and adjusts its shape to the fish’s swimming style. When they are young, iridescent sharks, like all sharks, have very black, shiny skin. However, their skin loses its lustre and gradually turns a uniform grey as they age.
One thing to note is that, these fish are NOT for beginners, but advanced fish keepers. The can grow to over 4 feet in size, so they won’t fit in most home aquariums.
Maintaining variation is key to finding iridescent shark food. These fish, like catfish, are omnivores. And like catfish, often time the best thing you can feed them is slow sinking catfish pellets, that will allow them to quickly eat food before it reaches the substrate.
Peaceful fish of a similar size make excellent tank mates for iridescent sharks. If it’s any smaller, it could be mistaken for food. Due to their timid nature, these fish should have their tank mates picked carefully, making sure to exclude aggressive ones. Iridescent sharks lack the temperament to strike back or protect themselves, making them easy prey.
Oscars, Silver Dollar Fish, and large Plecos will all make great tank mates for iridescent sharks.
|Tank Size||300 Gallons|
Violet Blushing Shark
Another freshwater shark to consider for your tank (if you have the size) is the violet blushing shark. They grow up to 12″ in size and they’ll need at least a 125 gallon tank, along with an extra 30 gallons for each additional shark.
Primarily, violet blushing sharks will eat what is on the bottom of the tank so you should make sure you’re when it comes to feeding time, you’re adding sinking pellets to the tank. But also supplementing their diet with protein like bloodworms or mosquito larvae, as well as blanched vegetables
Violet blushing sharks are hostile towards others of their own species when there aren’t enough in the tank. So either keep them on their own or in groups of 5 or more. Apart from this you can also keep them with larger fish that don’t look similar to them.
With that being said, they get along well with larger peaceful fish like Rainbowfish, Clown loaches, Angelfish, Plecos, and Giant Danios.
|Name||Violet Blushing Shark|
|Tank Size||125 Gallons|
Black Sharks or Black Shark Minnows are freshwater aquarium fish that resemble their oceanic kin, the true sharks, quite closely. The Black Shark is a massive freshwater species. It’s found across Asia in the rivers, streams, channels, and floodplains of Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Borneo, and Sumatra. They feel safe in their natural surroundings because of all the places they may hide.
Black sharks are opportunistic feeders who consume virtually anything that fits their mouths. This makes it easy for them to find food. You’ll need to give them a diet of primarily fish pellets!
On top of this, feeding your shark fresh or frozen meat, fish, and vegetables will help maintain or improve their color. Juvenile freshwater Black Sharks should be fed at least twice daily. In contrast, adult Black Sharks should be fed once daily due to their enormous appetites.
When it comes to tank mates black sharks are normally best left in isolation or at the very least, with fish that aren’t similar in appearance, but similar in size. With this in mind, larger fish like cichlids, or plecos are going to be your best bet.
|Tank Size||200 Gallons|
Denison Barbs, Red-line Torpedo Barbs, and Miss Kerala are all names for the same species of shark commonly referred to as Roseline Sharks. The Roseline shark is a freshwater fish well-known for its eye-catching patterns. They come in a wide variety of hues, though silver is its essential characteristic. You may also notice that they come in a golden and a lemon-yellow shade.
In the centre of their bodies is a black lateral stripe extending to the end of their tails. A red line may be seen superimposed on top of the black one. Their crowns are a vibrant emerald green color. The physical characteristics of males and females are indistinguishable. However, females are a little bit longer than males.
Like most other freshwater sharks, Roseline sharks are omnivores, so make sure you’re feeding them a mix of meat and plant matter in their diet to keep them happy. Your best bet for feeding them is slow sinking tropical pellets formulated for fish that spend most of their time in the middle of the tank.
Roseline Sharks should only be housed with similarly sized and energetic fish that do not have delicate tail fins. With that in mind, you can keep them with cherry barbs, gouramis, cichlids, catfish, plecos and even small freshwater sting rays.
|Tank Size||55 Gallons|
The Harlequin shark’s body is generally a creamy yellow but bears distinct gray markings and black blotches. Even their transparent fins are covered in black spots. Harlequin shark’s are easily identifiable by their bright colors. However, these characteristics gradually disappear as the fish ages.
The aufwuchs, which is a kind of slimy coating of bacteria, protists, fungi, and algae that forms on all manner of hard surfaces in your tank, is a favorite food of the omnivorous harlequin shark. Their ability to consume algae on a diet like this in larger tanks makes them a valuable addition.
However, you shouldn’t just rely on aufwuchs alone in your tank to feed your harlequin sharks, they also eat tropical fish flakes, sinking wafers, and pellets, with the caveat that fish food richer in vegetable content are preferable. And when feeding them, make sure the food you’re giving them sinks to the bottom of the tank.
When looking for tank mates for your harlequin sharks, make sure you’re not choosing fish that resemble them in anyway. Harlequin sharks are aggressive and territorial, especially to their own kind.
If you do want to keep fish in the same tank as your harlequin sharks, then opt for fish that are large in size, and aren’t bottom dwellers. Lastly, setup clear territories for your harlequin sharks to reduce the chance of aggression occurring.
|Tank Size||40 Gallons|
Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark
The Chinese High Fin Banded Shark’s remarkable metamorphosis is one of its most fascinating features. Their entire bodies are covered with alternating black and white stripes. However, as they age they become one solid color. The males usually go red in color, whereas the females go purple.
The triangular shape of the dorsal fin complements the high-contrast patterning. They are named for their disproportionately large dorsal fin, distinguishing them from other fish.
Some people mistakenly believe that Chinese High-Fin Banded Sharks are vegetarians. Despite their preference for algae, these creatures are true omnivores and will feast on anything available. Because they mostly feed off the substrate, make sure you’re adding sinking pellets for them.
Also the best way to ensure proper growth and development is through a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and other essential nutrients is to offer various foods. Add high-protein live and frozen snacks to their diet to complement the algae.
In the wild, the Chinese high-fin banded shark will form schools of two to three. They don’t swim much in the tank and instead spend a lot of their time sleeping.
Apart from this they do best in a pond alongside other large species, such as Koi, goldfish, and loaches. Don’t put them in a tank with tropical fish, or one of them will die from unsuitable water requirements.
|Name||Chinese High-Fin Banded Shark|
|Tank Size||500 Gallons|
Silver Apollo Shark
An elongated body, a forked caudal fin, and a dorsal fin that is located low on the back are all distinguishing features of the Silver Apollo Shark. These fish are green above a dark horizontal line from their nose to their tail fin and silvery white below.
Because of their omnivorous nature, Apollo sharks can be fed both plant and animal matter. But be warned, no matter what they find in the tank, if it’s small enough to fit in their mouths, they’ll eat it.
With this in mind, various fresh and frozen meals are suitable for your Apollo sharks’ diet. Brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and krill are among their favorite foods, although they will also happily eat flakes and pellets. Freeze-dried tubifex and bloodworms make excellent snacks for apollo sharks.
Apollo sharks do well with other large, peaceful fish of similar sizes, such as Bala Sharks, Tin Foil Barbs Rainbowfish, Scavenger Catfish, and Gouramis.
|Name||Silver Apollo Shark|
|Tank Size||125 Gallons|
Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus siamensis)
Siamese algae eaters are bottom-dwellers, so a sandy substrate is best for their safety. Also, adding plants and caves creates a great environment while keeping the water clean and oxygenated. And since Siamese algae eaters are active and may jump, keeping a lid on the tank to prevent accidents is important.
When selecting the best tankmates for your Siamese algae eaters, always consider their behavior. Avoid territorial and aggressive fish and choose peaceful ones like Corydoras, tetras, danios, and guppies instead. You can also add algae-eating shrimp and snails to their tank for variety.
As their name suggests, Siamese algae eaters love algae. However, In their natural habitat, they will also scavenge and eat dead fish and insects. In an aquarium, they will eat most things, including flake and pellet foods, algae wafers, and live foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.
|Name||Siamese Algae Eater|
|Tank Size||30 Gallons|
Flying Fox (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus)
Flying Foxes are great for intermediate fish keepers because they require a tank with enough space and a particular environment to thrive. As active swimmers, they need a lot of room to explore and a tank with a mix of fine gravel and sand for their substrate.
They’re also territorial, so providing hiding spots and decors using driftwood and rocks can help. For a natural look, try adding broad-leaved plants like Anubias or Java Ferns.
To ensure your Flying Foxes receive the best nutrition, it’s recommended to provide them with a variety of foods. This can include high-quality algae wafers, flakes, freeze-dried bloodworms, and frozen foods like artemia and daphnia.
Vegetables such as zucchini, shelled peas, lettuce, spinach, and cucumber are also great options.
If you’re thinking about getting some Flying Fox Fish for your community tank, remember to avoid any shy fish for tankmates. They can be pretty feisty and might end up getting bullied to death. But they get along just fine with larger Tetras, Rasboras, Rainbowfish, Cyprinids, Danios, Gouramis, and Loaches.
|Tank Size||40 Gallons|
Red Finned Cigar Shark (Leptobarbus hoevenii)
Red Finned Cigar Sharks are rarely kept in aquariums due to their massive size. But if you happen to have a tank large enough to keep one (around 350 gallons minimum),then it’s doable.
Use a mix of rocks, gravel, boulders, and driftwood to mimic their natural home, and have a secure cover for the aquarium, as your giant sharks can surely jump.
To keep your Apollo shark healthy, feed them a diverse diet of live and frozen foods like bloodworms, Daphnia, and Artemia, along with high-quality dried foods. Also, add some variety with vegetables like spinach, peas, and chopped fruits for variety.
Due to their size and carnivorous nature, Red finned Sharks should not be housed with any fish that will fit in their mouths. So, It’s best to keep them individually or in small groups if your tank is spacious enough.
|Name||Red Finned Cigar Shark|
|Tank Size||1325 Gallons|
Colombian Shark (Ariopsis seemanni)
To create a comfortable and healthy environment for your Colombian Shark, use brackish water with lower salinity and test it regularly. Don’t forget to also use sand and simple decorations, choose brackish plant species like Anubias, Java fern, and Sago Pondweed, and ensure adequate water flow with filters and pumps.
Columbian Sharks aren’t complicated when it comes to food. In the wild, they munch on live foods like shrimp and crustaceans, but in captivity, they’re happy to eat flakes, pellets, and all sorts of live or frozen foods, such as blood worms or brine shrimp. They love meaty treats like earthworms and live fish too!
Columbian Sharks are ideal for community fish tanks and prefer to school in groups of three or more. They are non-territorial and can coexist with other non-aggressive brackish fish, such as Garpikes, Monos, and Arches.
|Tank Size||75 Gallons|
Glo Shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum)
To keep your GloFish sharks happy, they need plenty of space to swim around. A long, shallow tank with hiding places, like overhangs, caves, driftwood, and plants, is ideal. Be sure to cover the tank to prevent any accidental escapes. Use fine, sandy gravel as the substrate to keep your sharks safe while they explore the bottom of the tank.
GloFish sharks are easy to feed because they eat a variety of things. They like tropical fish flakes, pellets, algae, and chopped blanched vegetables. Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia are also good for them. If you have young sharks, make sure they get good food so they grow well and stay colorful.
Add peaceful fish like gouramis and rainbowfish to your aquarium with your GloFish shark. You can also mix things up with different colored GloFish species, but avoid bottom-dwellers as they won’t be compatible.
|Tank Size||55 Gallons|
How to Set Up a Tank for Freshwater Sharks
Setting up a tank for freshwater sharks requires careful planning, consideration, and attention to detail. By selecting an appropriate tank size, providing adequate filtration and equipment, maintaining optimal water quality, and choosing suitable tank mates, you can create the best environment for them.
1. Choosing the Right Tank
Selecting an appropriate tank is the first crucial step in setting up the right environment for freshwater sharks. Since they can grow to a considerable size, it is absolutely vital to provide them with enough swimming space.
A tank with a capacity of at least 120 gallons is recommended for smaller species, such as the Bala shark, while larger species, like the Iridescent shark may require a tank of 300 gallons or more. So, choose wisely!
2. Tank Equipment and Filtration
Investing in quality filtration systems is vital to maintaining a healthy and stable environment for freshwater sharks. So, you should use a canister filter or a sump system to ensure efficient water circulation and filtration in your tank.
Remember your filter should be capable of handling the bioload and waste production of your sharks.
- Multi-stage filter pumps out 925 US Gal (3,500 L) of water per hour, Smart Pump advanced microchip technology continuously monitors and optimizes pump performance
Additionally, a reliable heater is necessary to maintain the appropriate water temperature, usually around 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Substrate and Decorations
Choose a suitable substrate for your shark tank that replicates their natural habitat. Sand or small gravel are the standard choices, but if you’re going to have plants I’d recommend aquarium soil, as it allows the sharks to exhibit their natural foraging behaviors without injuring their sensitive barbels.
Introduce caves, rock formations, and driftwood as hiding spots. These decorations make your sharks feel secure and also create an aesthetically pleasing aquatic landscape.
- Fluval Stratum is made of mineral rich volcanic soil
4. Water Quality and Parameters
Maintaining optimal water quality is crucial for the health and well-being of your freshwater sharks. So, monitor and adjust the following parameters in your tank regularly:
pH level: Aim for a slightly acidic to neutral pH range, around 6.8 and 8.0.
Temperature: Most sharks do well with a water temperature between 74-80°F
Ammonia and Nitrite levels: These should remain at zero, as any detectable levels can be harmful to the sharks.
Nitrate levels: Keep nitrate levels below 20 parts per million (ppm) through regular water changes.
Hardness: Most freshwater sharks prefer moderately hard water, so aim for a hardness level of around 2-10 dKH.
To check the water parameters, you should always have a water testing kit handy.
- Contains one (1) API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit, including 7 bottles of testing solutions, 1 color card and 4 tubes with cap
5. Suitable Tank Mates
When choosing tank mates for your freshwater sharks, it’s important to consider their compatibility. Avoid keeping aggressive or territorial fish with your sharks, as this can lead to stress and potential harm. Instead, always choose peaceful fish that are confident and will defend themselves
Some suitable tank mates include larger Catfish, tetras, danios, gouramis, and loaches. Always research the specific requirements and compatibility of potential tank mates to ensure a peaceful community tank.
6. Feeding and Nutrition
Freshwater sharks are omnivorous and require a varied diet to thrive. Provide a balanced mix of high-quality commercial shark pellets or sticks, supplemented with live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and chopped blanched vegetables.
Remember to feed your sharks small portions several times a day to prevent overeating and ensure the best nutrition.
- Ideal for bottom dwelling fish
7. Observation and Maintenance
Lastly, regular observation and maintenance are essential for the overall health and well-being of your freshwater sharks. Monitor their behavior, appetite, and general appearance daily to detect any signs of illness or distress.
Perform routine water changes of 25% every two weeks to maintain water quality and remove accumulated waste. Test water parameters regularly to ensure they remain within the recommended ranges.
Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about keeping freshwater sharks!
What Do Freshwater Sharks Eat?
Most freshwater sharks are omnivorous so they should eat a mix of both plant matter as well as animal matter. The best way to get this in their diet is with high quality sinking pellets, however, you can also feed them live food and blanched vegetables too.
Do Any Aquarium Sharks Resemble Catfish?
Iridescent sharks have that familiar catfish-like head complete with barbels. However, their bodies are pretty bulbous. The fins are also quite large and fan-like, giving the fish a unique profile.
Will Aquarium Sharks Eat Fish?
Sharks that get along with other fish and invertebrates do well in tanks with them. On the other hand, sharks that don’t get along with other fish and invertebrates will eat them all and should only be kept with other sharks.
What Is The Best Aquarium Shark For Beginners?
The Roseline Shark, with its stunning gold, crimson, and black pattern, is one of the most striking and easiest sharks to keep for beginners. These shark fish are great for new aquarium owners because they require only a 50-gallon tank at the very least.
What’s The Easiest Freshwater Shark To Keep?
The Silver Apollo Shark and the Violet Blushing Shark are two of the easiest freshwater sharks to care for. However, you should still know how each species reacts to others in the tank.
The best freshwater sharks for a fish tank are hardy species, compatible with other tank mates, and appropriate for the size of the tank. Some popular options include the rainbow shark, red tail shark, bala shark, and black shark.
However, it is vital to research the specific needs of each species and provide proper care, such as a suitable environment and appropriate diet, to ensure the health and well-being of the fish. It’s also essential to remember that not all species marketed as “freshwater sharks” are actual sharks, but relatively species that resemble shark-like behavior and physical characteristics.